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What is a Grip?

Some say the word 'grip' comes from the 1930s term for a tool bag or grip that workmen used for carrying their tools or from the early days of filming when the cameras were so heavy it took several burly men to hold them steady. However the name came about, the Grip looks after the 'bag of tricks' on set which has a gadget or gizmo for every camera supporting need - and if they don't have it, they can find it, make it or re-model something else to do the job. Grips are the 'make it work' people on set - masters of the art of pulling effective solutions to impossible mechanical problems out of thin air!

In the UK the Grip Department provides, builds and maintains all the equipment which supports the cameras during filming - tripods, dollies (four wheel contraptions which hold camera and operator for moving & tracking shots), jibs, cranes and static rigs, ropes and pulleys - all of which need a high level of experience to operate and move. Every scene in a feature film is shot using one or more cameras and each is mounted on this highly complex equipment - with the Grips using anything and everything to make the shot work for the Director of Photography and the Director. 

The UK, unlike other countries, have national qualifications for Grips and Crane Technicians, to help maintain high standards of work and also Health and Safety. These qualifications are, Level 2 Grip (Dolly, Static Mounts and Jib Arms), Level 2 Crane Technician and Advanced Level 3 Grip (Advanced Tracking, Crane Operating, Advanced Rigging and Tracking Vehicles) and are recognised nationwide by the Industry. 

The Grips Departments in the USA and the UK differ slightly in the way they work. In the USA the Grips are also responsible for Lighting and Rigging - flagging, gels, Bluescreens and Green Screens etc - which is taken care of in the UK by the Lighting Technicians. A hybrid of these two systems is beginning to happen in the UK, with Grip departments now taking on the responsibility of Blue Screens and Green Screens in collaboration with Rigging and Construction departments.

This is a department for an individual who has technical and mechanical skills combined with a complete understanding of the way a film set operates. This job requires stamina, strength and endurance, combined with precision and grace in order to move the dolly or crane, working in perfect harmony with the Camera Operator and Artistes.

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